Wednesday’s primary has put Connecticut Democrats in the awkward position of deciding whether to support a convicted felon in his campaign to win back his job as mayor of Bridgeport.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declined to comment Thursday on what he planned to do about his pre-primary support for Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who lost in a three-way primary to former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.
Ganim was convicted 12 years ago of taking bribes and other offenses when he served as mayor of Connecticut’s largest city. His message to the voters in the recent primary campaign was that everyone deserves a second chance. Now, the Democratic Party has to decide whether that applies to the former mayor.
“Listen, I’m not doing anything on that race today,” Malloy said. “I have to have some conversations and take a look at it.”
He said it’s clear all three candidates intended to run independent campaigns in the General Election if they lost the Democratic primary.
Asked to speculate what happened in Bridgeport, Malloy said it looked like Ganim “ran a better campaign and he won.”
Finch was endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee, but the Democratic Party in Bridgeport was still split over their support for the mayor. It’s hard to say without exit polling data, but Finch’s handling of education in Bridgeport has been a sore spot for some residents. Two years ago Finch’s slate for the city’s Board of Education, which supported former Superintendent Paul Vallas, lost to a slate of three challengers endorsed by the teacher’s union and the Working Families Party.
Ganim held his victory party at Testo’s, the restaurant owned by Mario Testa, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee in Bridgeport.
Malloy said he supported Finch going into the primary because he thought he was the better candidate given the field, “but I’m not making any decisions right now.”
The governor called the situation unusual and admitted that if Ganim wins the general election, it will be awkward to deal with him, since Ganim was the one who systematically ripped the city off more than a decade ago.
Malloy said he hasn’t heard from business leaders in Bridgeport, who may be concerned about a return to a pay-to-play system under Ganim. Some of those business owners testified in favor of legislation that would prohibit certain felons from running for public office. But the legislation was never passed.
“I certainly expect there’s a lot of head scratching going on right now,” Malloy said.
Malloy wouldn’t say Thursday whether he would ask Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra not to run in the general election, but he did endorse Luke Bronin, his former legal counsel, and said he honored his commitment to stay out of the Hartford Democratic mayoral primary.
Bronin won the Democratic nomination Wednesday with about 55 percent of the vote and Malloy endorsed his campaign going forward to November.
“The time has come for the party in Hartford to heal any wounds that may exist,” Malloy said.
After the results were tallied Wednesday, Segarra said he needed to think about how to proceed. He already secured a spot on the November ballot and could run against Bronin, Republican Ted Cannon, and Working Families Party candidate Joel Cruz.
Segarra likely will be pressured the Democratic Party in Hartford to step aside, but it was unclear Thursday if Malloy will participate in that effort.
Segarra has been critical of the amount of money the city received from the state under the Malloy administration. But Malloy denied there was any lack of financial support for Hartford during his tenure.
Despite the jabs at his administration, Malloy said he expected to call Segarra later Thursday afternoon.
Asked if he was going to ask Segarra not to run in November, Malloy said, “Ask me that after I have my conversation. I haven’t had a conversation with the mayor. I will reach out to him today. I’m not ducking your question, but I don’t want to presuppose the discussion that I’m going to have. But I’ll answer that question after the fact.”